The last couple of years have been a little crazy to say the least. We’ve all dealt with personal loss in ways most would say was unpredictable just two years ago. As an author, I’ve been working on planning my articles for 2022. Part of this process involves looking back at what I have written in the past for the last couple of years to make sure I don’t repeat anything. Now, I’m not that old yet, but I still get all excited about an article idea only to realize…”Oh, I did it already.”
As I looked over previous articles, I also had the opportunity to relive my kids growing up. This coming year I have one kid getting married, one running a business, one graduating from high school, and one turning sweet sixteen. Another realization I’ve had over the last couple of months is the substance of the comments my now young adults make during our conversations. When a movie production this last year had a fatal shooting on set, one of the kids said they should have taken hunter’s safety and that would have never happened.
Many of us take for granted all the life lessons we’ve learned in the outdoors that many people have never learned. With all the chaos and closures in our world, the outdoors are being utilized by an ever-growing number of people who have never learned the outdoor lessons many of us learned growing up. These are the lessons that molded us in every aspect of our lives.
One example for me was a short rabbit hunt with my best friend Big Dan. We hopped in my white ’76 GMC one ton truck with a construction utility box on it to drive over to a neighbor’s coulee three and a half miles away that was rumored to be loaded with cottontails. (For all of you non-prairie dwellers, a coulee is a deep drainage that runs into a main river valley.) It was a brisk December day with about 4”-5” of fresh snow on the ground.
Whether it was the fact that we were lazy, the fear we would shoot so many rabbits we couldn’t carry them out, or just being young and naïve, I drove to the bottom of that coulee that sunny winter day like I had done for years. As a point of reference I was fifteen-ish and Dan was a couple of years older and wiser at the time. We had been on countless adventures during our life-long friendship and this day was no different or so we thought.
We went on a good long walk and shot a few rabbits and may have missed even more… but this isn’t an article on marksmanship, so we can skip that part of the story. Anyways, we got back to the truck, hopped in and went to drive home and that’s when it happened. As I confidently drove up the two track, the tires started to spin and the back end of the truck started slipping over the edge of the coulee. I stopped as Dan said, “Whoa.” I turned the wheels and slowly backed down the hill. We repeated this process a handful of times until I slid off the two track and ended up backing down the side of the coulee, so I didn’t tip the truck.
Looking back, I can say we weren’t scared of tipping or getting hurt. We knew that danger, it just didn’t scare us. The three and a half mile walk home to tell our dads how and where we got the truck stuck… ya' that was what scared us. So we got out of the truck to survey the situation at hand to see what we needed to do to get out of our literal jam. We made a plan, got in the truck to carry it out…only to find out we were stuck, really stuck. So we assessed our situation, we then adapted to that situation and improvised ice picks to start digging our way out of the frozen dirt that I parked in at the bottom of the coulee we ended up in.
I can’t remember how many times we dug and tried to get out before we almost gave up. As we sat next to the truck hopeless for the first time that day, trying to catch our breath; we asked the question many of us ask in life, “What now?” We were ready to start the walk of shame when Dan proclaimed, “We should pray first.”
So we did, we prayed that God would help us get out of our situation. As we said, “Amen,” I got up and opened the driver's door to the truck and said, “No way!” I hopped back in, pulled the emergency brake release and drove out of the coulee. Yep, the emergency brake was on the whole time we were digging, and I was so focused on what I thought was wrong that I overlooked what I had done to keep us stuck in that spot.
This outdoor lesson has shaped my life and how my wife and I have raised our kids. It’s also given our family perspective in all that has happened in the last two years and what we will encounter in the future. Why get frustrated when you can’t get shells to shoot clay pigeons when you can go fishing instead?
One day this last November, my son Andrew and I made it to the river to goose hunt, unloaded the truck and started heading out to the sand bar to set up at 5am when he asked, “Did we forget the guns at home?” I looked around and replied, “Yep.” We went out to our spot, and he started setting up as I made the trip home to get the guns. We laughed about it all day. If we would’ve gotten mad or frustrated and just went home because of our oversight, we would’ve missed all the exciting parts of the day. We had geese land in the spread and walk up to our blind before shooting hours even started. We would’ve missed our first limit of birds by ourselves without help and all the great conversations and relationship building that happened in the blind that day.
As I look back, I realize I’ve learned countless lessons in the outdoors that have made me who I am. Mother Nature teaches us lessons no textbook will. Life isn’t fair, there are absolutes, the world is simply complex, nature is unforgiving, we can manage but not control nature and more. These are lessons that put life in perspective when we take the time to apply the lessons we learn as individuals, families, and communities. All we have to do is take the time to pray, take the emergency brake off, and move forward.
Geremy Olson grew up in the outdoors. After being burned as a volunteer firefighter, he had to figure out how to teach outdoor skills to his children from a wheelchair while learning to walk. Today he is an inspirational speaker, author, FCA Outdoors ND director, tournament director, video producer, wildfire consultant, and proud father of the owners of Missouri Secrets Tackle & Secrets to Fishing.